When people think about getting into shape and hitting the gym they often look past their feet.  People like working on areas of their body people can see.  Your feet won’t be noticed on spring break, but keeping them in mind can increase your running or walking speed and endurance.  The stronger your feet become the more power you have in each step, and the faster your legs can move.  If you are a runner looking to take seconds off your mile or minutes off your marathon, these foot exercises will get you closer to your goal.  Or, if you’re a casual walker looking to increase your endurance around the block, these exercises will help you meet your goal and prevent injuries. 


Barefoot Calf Raises

These are a good warm-up for any workout because they use the entire lower half of the body.  Stand barefoot with your feet hips distance apart and slowly raise and lower your heels.  When lifting, make sure that the tops of your feet, ankles, and calves are all in a straight line.  If you are unsure about your form, use a chair to help balance and practice these exercises in front of a mirror. 


Heel-Raised Squats

These are a good change from the standard squat.  You will probably want to start with your hand on a railing or chair to increase your balance and place a block or small round ball between your upper thighs.  Next stand with your bare feet hips distance apart and lift your heels off the floor.  Once you feel stable, squeeze the ball or block between your legs and bend your knees as far as you can while keeping your heels raised and back straight.  Next, rise up an inch and drop an inch for a set, and repeat 30 times.  To make this more challenging, start and finish with a 30 second isometric hold with your knees bent.


Barefoot Squat Jumps

Jumping barefoot is an excellent exercise for your feet.  This exercise is best preformed on a soft surface such as grass, sand, or carpet.  Start with your feet hips distance apart and bend your knees as far as you can while keeping your back straight.  Now push off the ground with as much force as possible, jumping as high as you can.  Try to land softly to protect your knees and repeat for three sets of 20. 


Alternate Walking on Toes and Heels

Walking on your toes works the calf muscles and stretches the toe extensors.  Walking on your heels strengthens the foot extensors and stretched the calves.  Start with your feet hips distance apart and rise on your toes with your heels off the floor.  Take 50 steps on your toes.  Now, walk back on your heels with your toes off the floor.


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